How to Choose Your Gear Ratio

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If you’re searching for the ideal gearing on your fixed-gear bike to best suit your terrain and riding style, you’ve come to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll help you understand gearing basics, discuss the factors that influence your choice, and provide recommendations to find the perfect gear ratio for your needs. So, let’s dive in and discover the best gearing for you.

Understanding Gearing Basics

Gearing is measured in gear inches. The higher the gear inches, the harder it will be to pedal and the faster you’ll go. Gear inches can be calculated using the following formula:

Gear inches = (Diameter of the drive wheel x Number of teeth on the chainring) / Number of teeth on the cog

To increase gear inches, you can either increase the number of teeth on your chainring or decrease the number of teeth on the cog. Keep in mind that changing your tire width will also affect your gearing slightly.

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My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. It looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

How Gearing Influences Riding Style

Gearing will impact your cadence (how fast you’re turning the cranks, measured in revolutions per minute or RPM) and your bike’s resistance. While the terms “hard,” “easy,” “steep,” or “fast” are relative, the perfect gearing is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Your ideal gear ratio will depend on factors such as your strength, terrain, riding style, whether you ride with brakes or not, the roughness of surfaces, and the weight you’ll be carrying.

General Gearing Recommendations

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing the perfect gear ratio, here are some general recommendations to help you find a good starting point:

  1. Low Gearing (50-70 Gear Inches): This range is suitable if you do a lot of climbing or carry heavy loads. You’ll be able to tackle steep hills, but you might find yourself spinning out on flat terrains.
  2. Medium Gearing (75-85 Gear Inches): This range is considered the sweet spot for many riders, as it offers a good balance between climbing and flat riding. You’ll be able to maintain balance on descents and tackle steep hills with some effort.
  3. High Gearing (90-120 Gear Inches): This range is for racing and record-breaking attempts. However, it’s not recommended for everyday street riding, as it can lead to injuries, particularly to the knees.

Finding the Best Gear Ratio for You

To find the perfect gear ratio for your needs, you should experiment with different gears. Use a gear-inch calculator to determine your current gear ratio as a reference point. The most efficient way to test different gears is by swapping out cogs. Invest in high-quality tools, such as a chain whip, lockring tool, and chain breaker, to make the process more straightforward.

Remember, gearing is subjective, and there’s no one best solution for everyone. Your fitness and technique will make you fast, and the right gear ratio will help you be even faster. By experimenting with different gear ratios and considering your personal preferences, you’ll find the perfect gearing to tackle your terrain.

Expanding Your Gear Ratio Knowledge

As you become more familiar with gear ratios and their impact on your riding experience, you may want to explore some additional concepts and strategies to fine-tune your fixed gear bike’s performance even further.

Consider Your Riding Conditions

When selecting your gear ratio, consider the specific conditions you’ll be riding in most frequently. For example, if you live in an area with lots of hills or steep inclines, a lower gear ratio might be more beneficial for easier climbing. On the other hand, if you primarily ride on flat terrain, a higher gear ratio will allow you to achieve greater top speeds.

Optimizing Cadence

As mentioned earlier, cadence is the speed at which you turn the cranks, measured in RPM. Most riders find a cadence of 75-90 RPM comfortable, but this can vary depending on individual preferences and fitness levels. When choosing your gear ratio, consider whether you prefer a higher cadence (spinning) or a lower cadence (mashing). A higher cadence typically puts less stress on your muscles and joints, while a lower cadence may help develop strength and power.

Balancing Acceleration and Top Speed

Your gear ratio will also affect your bike’s acceleration and top speed. A lower gear ratio allows for quicker acceleration but may limit your top speed. Conversely, a higher gear ratio will enable you to achieve higher top speeds but may make acceleration slower. Depending on your riding style and goals, you may want to find a balance between acceleration and top speed by experimenting with different gear ratios.

Fine-Tuning with Chainrings and Cogs

Swapping out cogs is the most cost-effective and noticeable way to experiment with different gear ratios, but you can also fine-tune your gearing by changing chainrings. If you’re looking for smaller adjustments to your gear inches, consider changing the chainring. This can also help you achieve a smoother chainline and improve the overall efficiency of your drivetrain.


As you become more experienced with gear ratios and their effects on your riding experience, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about the ideal setup for your fixed gear bike. By considering factors such as riding conditions, cadence preferences, and the balance between acceleration and top speed, you can fine-tune your gear ratio to suit your specific needs and riding style. Ultimately, the perfect gear ratio will be one that allows you to ride comfortably and efficiently while maximizing your performance and enjoyment on the bike.

Bradley Knight Image
Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

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